Bulgaria must not let far-right hijack its EU presidency

Opinion by Gabi Zimmer

Far-right ministers must not be allowed to hijack EU platforms to promote their odious brand of hatred and intolerance under the guise of the Council Presidency, writes Gabi Zimmer

Gabi Zimmer is President of the GUE/NGL Group of the European Parliament.

When European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke at the opening ceremony of the Bulgaria’s new six-month EU Presidency earlier this month, he accentuated the positives by mapping out the country’s future in the eurozone and in Schengen.

The Commission President also described Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as a “personal friend” and a “committee European”, and seemingly believed that Bulgaria’s moment in the sun is going to be nothing but rosy.

If I was an optimist, I would be hoping for the same for our Bulgarian friends. However, serious concerns remain over a number of issues ranging from organised crime to rampant corruption, as well as the influence of the far-right in the country’s coalition government and their xenophobic, homophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

As leaders of the political groups in the European Parliament, we had the opportunity to travel to Sofia recently to meet with the country’s President and to talk to the parliamentarians there about the challenges that lie ahead.

At the end of the trip, I was left with the impression that even though this is one of the smallest EU member states, the government is keen to make an impact during its presidency.

Yet, legitimate questions remain over the influence of ultra-nationalist and well-known fascist cabinet ministers who will be setting the agenda and chairing EU meetings on a regular basis over the next six months on economic and foreign policies to competitiveness and the circular economy.

Their EU presidency is also an opportunity to see progress made in the cooperation with the Western Balkans. That is the hope that my colleagues and I share at GUE/NGL, in particular those from Greece. As we look ahead, Bulgaria’s landmark friendship pact with Macedonia can also act as a springboard in helping the EU to forge closer ties with Montenegro and Serbia as well as bring peace to the region.

As citizens, we must be vigilant. Over the coming months, the credibility of the Bulgarian government will very much depend on how it performs during this presidency. Corruption, xenophobia and racism cannot be tolerated at any level, least of all at the top of EU institutions.“

The full-text article can be found online here.